Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
CICFF ’14: The Singing Pond
follows in the tradition of the Bollywood smash Taare Zameen Par, but it has a much more manageable running time.
There is still has an intermission for exhibitors who chose to observe it. You
can also be sure plenty of lessons will be learned by children and adults alike
in Indika Ferdinando’s The Singing Pond (trailer here), which screens as part of the 2014 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
is a well-to-do radical, who has had enough of revolution. Taking a more
grassroots, trickle-up approach to social change, she accepts a teaching
position in a remote Sri Lankan village. The strict principal is sure she will
transfer out as soon as possible, just like her predecessors. However, Uma is
surprisingly persistent. Soon she moderates his disciplinary tendencies, while
instituting some new school policies, like the morning assembly.
day starts with a distinctly personal speech from one of the students, through
which Uma gains dramatic insights of their daily lives. However, blind Upuli’s
speech moves the school beyond insight into action. Lamenting she will never
see the ocean, yet still dreams of experiencing it, Upuli strikes a chord with
her classmates. They have never seen the ocean either and have little prospects
of ever leaving their village to do so. It is only a day’s drive away, but it
might as well be on a different planet, until Uma starts organizing a class
course, it will take the entire village’s support to overcome all the
unforeseen obstacles. Many of those will come from the village officer, who
does not like anything that could loosen his control over the community. He
will become a problem, but fortunately his wife is Uma’s secret ally.
Pond is all very earnest
and gentle. There are not a lot of surprises in store for viewers, but its
messages regarding the value of education and teamwork should meet with
parental approval. Ferdinando has a good eye for Sri Lankan locales, framing
some lovely scenes. However, it is the catchy tunes composed by classical and
alt-rock composer Dinesh Subasinghe that really make the film. His score is
light years better than Staare’s
annoying whistle theme.
Uma is way too much of a little Miss Perfect, but Anasuya Subasinghe’s warm
screen presence serves the role quite well. She can also carry a tune and looks
comfortable behind a piano. Still, the film’s standout work comes from playwright-actor
Lucien Bulathsinhala, who has some subtly turned moments as the
Yes, it is all very nice, which is not a bad
thing. Pond is the sort of film that
should expand children’s horizons without overwhelming them in the enormity of
global poverty, but it might be too sweet for hipper parents, guardians, and
fans of movie musicals. Recommended for family viewing, The Singing Pond screens this Tuesday morning (10/28) at the Logan
Center for the Arts, as part of this year’s CICFF.
Labels: CICFF '14, Sri Lankan cinema